There is a lot of confusion about owner-operators and worker’s compensation insurance. We are going to try to straighten it out in this week’s Tip of the Week …. When owner-operator’s sign on with a company, they sign an agreement which states that they are independent contractors and that they agree to carry insurance which covers them in the event of an on-the-job injury. To live up to that end of the bargain, they usually get a type of insurance which is called Occupational Accident Insurance or Occupational Disability Insurance, and both the driver and the company treat this as being “worker’s comp.” It isn’t. Some of these insurance policies do provide good coverage for the driver in the event of an on-the-job injury. Others are hardly worth the paper they are printed on. Whether it is a good policy or not, an occupational disability policy is not the same as worker’s comp coverage. The law in Illinois leaves open the possibility that an owner-operator will be treated as an employee for worker’s comp purposes even when he signed an “independent contractor” agreement. The idea is that the work the owner-operator does is at the heart of the business of a trucking company and the company exercises control over the work of the driver (including assuring compliance with DOT regs). When that happens, an owner-operator may be considered an employee of the trucking company and therefore eligible to get worker’s compensation benefits. A worker’s compensation insurance policy is different from an occupational accident policy in that it covers the trucking company, not the driver, and must cover the benefits required by the Worker’s Compensation Act. The trucking company must be the one to carry the insurance, not the driver. The two aren’t the same, even though many owner-operators and companies proceed as if they are. If you are an owner-operator who has questions about your rights after an on-the-job accident and the relationship between the two kinds of insurance, feel free to contact our office. If you have a current worker’s compensation issue which you need help on, please feel free to reach out to our office by calling us at 312-263-1080 to discuss your issues and what options you have. There is no obligation to hire our law firm, and there is no charge for the call. I hope this has been helpful, and if you know anyone who can benefit from this kind of information, please feel free to share this. We are here to help truck drivers after an on-the-job accident. Knowledge is power, and the first step in protecting your rights is to know what they are. Stay safe!
One thing we hear frequently from owner-operators after they are hurt on the job is that they are denying coverage because they are “independent contractors” and therefore can’t get benefits after an on-the-job injury. Only part of that is true … In order to get worker’s compensation benefits, there must be an employer-employee relationship. And owner-operators sign independent contractor agreements with their carrier, so on the surface it would make sense that an owner-operator cannot get worker’s compensation benefits. However, that is not always true. The Illinois Supreme issued a ruling a number of years ago that stated that even where there is an “independent contractor” agreement between the owner-operator and the company, it would look to the substance of the relationship to decide whether the injured driver was covered by worker’s compensation. If the company exercised control over the work done by the driver and the work being done by the driver was at the heart of what the company does, then the driver could be considered an employee. This is where having your case handled right comes in: it all depends on the proof that you provide on those two points. If you provide the right proof, you can receive thousands of dollars in disability benefits and have access to quality medical care. Fail to put in the right proof …. and you are on your own. That is why you should be getting a well-qualified worker’s compensation lawyer to assist you with your case. If you have a worker’ compensation case that you would like assistance with please call our office at 312-263-1080 to discuss this further. There is no charge for the call and you are not obligated to hire us if you do call. Stay safe!